KAMPALA-UGANDA/NEWSDAY: Corrupt public officials must go to jail, refund what they stole but also lose their jobs as a consequence, President Yoweri Museveni has said.
Speaking at the 6th Joan Kagezi Memorial Lecture in Munyonyo where he was a chief guest on Friday, Museveni said corruption has stalled Uganda’s development and made the general population poorer.
“Our big problem now is corruption of public officials. This is the one that is slowing down our rate of growth, and I’m glad they [court] are very harsh, Jane Abodo [DPP] has said so. Those who go to jail must lose opportunities of leadership, but they must pay back everything they have stolen,” said Museveni.
Museveni’s statements come at a time when several cabinet ministers have been arraigned before the Anti-Corruption court over diverting iron sheets meant for the vulnerable people of Karamoja. Karamoja Affairs minister Mary Goretti Kituti and her junior minister Agnes Nandutu, Planning Finance minister Amos Lugolobi have already been charged.
The arrested ministers have expressed disappointment at being embarrassed with arrests while those who are yet to be arrested are said to be moving with bail cash and have already arraigned their sureties. At least 23 cabinet ministers and officials were investigated by police over the Karamoja iron sheets scandal.
TAX WAIVER FOR PROSECUTORS
Museveni also used the occasion to announce a direct tax waiver on prosecutors’ salaries. According to Museveni, the prosecutors led by the director of public prosecutions (DPP) Jane Frances Abodo have in the past demanded to have their taxes waived just like the other players in the justice system especially police and judges.
“Recently therefore this issue of taxes came up and I said, leave them, don’t tax them. Don’t tax them directly – income tax. Then somebody tried to argue that no, everybody must pay tax. I said hmn, but the soldiers are not paying tax, and you know why they are not paying tax. The policemen are not paying tax, I think the judges are also not paying tax. So I said, what is the problem? These people are not so many. My daughter Abodo says they are only 300,” said Museveni.
The president joked that he knows some of the male prosecutors like drinking beer and the ladies are in love with perfumes and therefore there is nothing for nothing and he will therefore indirectly obtain taxes from them when they are purchasing such goods.
On her part, DPP Abodo rechoed the need to bridge understaffing gaps within her office, saying that they are overwhelmed with work as only 300 prosecutors have to tackle thousands of criminal cases before the courts of law countrywide.
She further decried the absence of a witness protection law which she attributes to threatening, interfering and displacing state witness specifically in organized crimes such as terrorism and human trafficking. This, the DPP said has over time, affected prosecutorial processes such as investigations, identifying witnesses, securing their physical safety and the prosecution of cases.
She explained that in cases that are at an advanced stage, witnesses will claim contrary to their prior statements. She said they become refractory or flipped up witnesses, pleading lack of personal knowledge, lack of current recollection, testify facts that are less than helpful, neutral or even damaging to the prosecution case.
According to Abodo therefore, it is suggested that with the prevalence of serious and organized crimes in Uganda, witness intimidation is fast becoming one of the most ever-present and menacing problems faced by the office of the DPP. She said therefore at times witnesses need psycho-social support to recover from psychological problems they experience as witnesses.
The chief of legal services in the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (Updf) Prof Brig Godard Busingye says it’s not only the office of the DPP that needs to protect the witnesses but also the army in their court martials. Busingye explained that the court martial also has sophisticated cases like those handled by the office of the DPP.
Kagezi who was being remembered today was murdered in cold blood on March 30, 2015, while on duty, and to date, no suspect has ever been arrested in relation to her murder.
Kagezi was the lead prosecutor in the trial of terrorism suspects involved in the July 11, 2010 twin bombings where more than 70 people were killed while watching the Fifa World Cup finals in Lugogo and in Kabalagala.
Museveni blamed the police for failure to apprehend Kagezi’s killers, saying that they were known immediately, but the police failed to take action before the suspects escaped out of the country.
The president added that recently, he met the new CID director, Tom Magambo regarding Kagezi’s murder and has been briefed with the latest intel. He said that they have continued to pursue the bigger group of Kagezi’s killers, who, he said, are Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He vowed to fight the ADF rebels until they also join Kagezi on the dead list.
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